I recently purchased a pair of beautiful, sparkly clip earrings from the 1950s that were described to me by their previous owner as “Hollywood Regency.”
I had never heard that term used before and thought that maybe it was the name of a costume jewelry manufacturing company. After a bit of research, however, I discovered it is not a company after all, but rather a style, also known as Regency Moderne.
An interior design using bold colors with overtones of glitz and glamour, the look is often contrasted with metallic and glass accents, representing both luxury and comfort. What a fabulous combination!
This style originated during the 1920s with the very first interior design professional, Dorothy Draper:
Dorothy Draper in 1942
She encouraged actors and actresses of southern California’s movie-making industry to add drama and glamour to the decor of their beautiful estates during the Golden Era which lasted through the 1950s.
The Hollywood Regency style was also used with opulent Art Deco-inspired film sets created for the movies of the 1930s of which actresses such as Jean Harlow (pictured) and Carole Lombard were a part.
The sets were often brightly colored with upholstered fainting couches in rich velvet or satin and mirrored accent pieces. Audiences loved the look as it gave them an escape from having to face the bleak days ahead during the Great Depression.
Hollywood movies had a tremendous influence on their viewers, impacting many of their decisions about what they drank, drove, smoked, and the way they dressed. Women greatly admired the strong screen roles played by such talented actresses like Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and Carole Lombard. They wanted to be just like them. They were truly “starstruck!”
During the 1940s and ’50s, the stars accessorized with bold costume jewelry in the movies which made it fashionably acceptable for women to start wearing it themselves as they wanted to feel wealthy and glamorous, too.
At that time, if you admired a necklace worn by Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, you could actually buy a copy at Woolworths, made by Joseff of Hollywood who designed the original! Stars such as Vivien Leigh and Elizabeth Taylor appeared in advertisements for the jewelry.
Elizabeth Taylor in 1953
Having it available at discounted retail stores made it possible for ordinary, working-class women to afford such jewelry that would otherwise be far too expensive. Now they could accessorize just like their favorite movie stars without the high price tag!
Before I bought those glamorous clip earrings described as Hollywood Regency, I would have never known about the rather large collection I already had sitting right at home. Now, if only I knew where to find a red velvet fainting couch…
*Hollywood Regency style living room – photo credit: PoshSurfside.com at https://www.flickr.com/photos/9243453@N02/4140811059
Kimberly Moore is a vintage costume jewelry expert, blogger, speaker, and author of Beauty in a Life Repurposed. To learn more, visit her website at kingdomsparkle.com
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